The Ghost of Christmas Past as a Play School host? It’s just one of many funny yet emotionally resonant ideas applied to this adaptation of Charles Dickens’ imperishable novella.
Writer Melissa Lee Speyer sticks pretty close to the Dickens template. Scrooge (played by Bobbie-Jean Henning) is much the same figure presented in the original story, though with a free market twist. Think Milton Friedman meets Ayn Rand.
Still on the’ 15-shilling-a-week rate, Bob Cratchit (Monica Sayers) and family are struggle street fixtures, scraping together enough money for a bucket of KFC for Christmas dinner.
Speyer re-imagines Tiny Tim as a mentally troubled youngster prone to fits of rage. He’s bitten his mum (Bishanyia Vincent) more than once.
The spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Future arrive on time and in order but Speyer puts an interesting spin on each: Past (Michael Yore) is a deadpan hilarious in cuddly knitwear; Present (Aslam Abdus-samad) is an exhausted party guest trapped in an eternal five-minutes-to-midnight; Future is a voiceless, faceless apparition from our modern-day nightmares, those informed by climate change and the renewed threat of nuclear war.
Director-designer Michael Dean’s production is characterised by fluid ensemble work (he has up to seven performers at work in this small space) and a good eye for the ways choreography can be used to create atmosphere and build tension.
Keyboardist Miles Elkington scores the story from the sidelines with music including All I Want for Christmas is You (with which a radiant Vincent stops Scrooge’s young heart and, briefly, the show) and what sound very like elements from the theme to Stranger Things.
It’s not easy to capture an audience at this time of year. Few theatre companies are game to try. But if you can find the time and a few spare bucks between now and December 24, do. A ticket to this darkly entertaining A Christmas Carol is one of the few real bargains out there.